Why are you with who you are with?

I can predict with uncanny accuracy the emotional strength and depth of a man’s relationship with his wife or girlfriend in the way he responds to this question:

“Tell me about her?”

On the surface it’s a simple enough inquiry, a few innocuous words used in everyday language to gain a better understanding about anyone or anything; and certainly not some underhanded tactic to lure a man into stepping on his Johnson. But the point is this. The first words he uses to describe her will tell me everything – it tells me what he values most in her.

  • “She’s beautiful”
  • “She’s a great mom.”
  • “She’s really fun.”

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these answers. All are qualities every man wants, or should at least, in a significant other and each are traits that testify to the splendor womanhood. But would anyone agree these or any number of similar superficial motives be reason enough to commit a life to someone?

I’ve asked this same question to scores of men, those in long-term relationship and others who’ve just met someone. It’s the same question anyone might ask. And the unfortunate thing is that few answers I received lead me to believe the man has honestly considered why he is with who he is with. And what’s even more regrettable, I don’t think women are much different.

•♦•

Every man, whether he knows it or not, has a certain set of characteristics he desires in a woman. For many, especially younger men, it begins and ends with the physical, giving little if any consideration to what will be left when the pretty face wears off. For example every time, and I do mean every time, he immediately responds with ‘she’s hot!’ you can guarantee that relationship will not last. Why? He’s far too enamored with her goddess looks to possess the capacity for ever moving beyond the superficial. But when the moment comes where he looks at her and doesn’t notice her stunning beauty any longer, he’ll be left wondering “Why am I with this woman?”

Any attribute, be it looks, career, physique, or personality are merely what grabs his attention; it can never be enough keep him committed. Unless there is a deeper inspiration within him, any surface level motivation will eventually wear thin. Here’s how I know this, ask almost any man who’s been in a long term relationship or marriage why he’s with who he’s with and the reason he gives will be different than when they first met. Shallowness can never be the necessary glue to hold two people together for a lifetime. I believe this notion is best described in a poster I saw once over a urinal at a sports bar; the image was a beautiful woman in a string bikini. The caption underneath read,

“She may be beautiful now, but somebody somewhere is sick and tired of putting up with her shit.”

Unless the man has a profound awareness and understanding of why he chose her over the others, and calls back to that if and when the relationship begins to waver, that romance will ultimately meets its demise, literally or metaphorically.

•♦•

Had you asked me a decade ago why I was with my now ex-wife I couldn’t have given you an answer. As far as I was concerned I merely did what every other thirty something American male was supposed do. I found the first woman, loosely based on what I thought I was looking for, that seemed compatible at the time, drank the Kool-aide, and then did what I was told from that point on. Even today aside from those shallow motivations I can’t explain what it was that led, and then kept, me in the relationship for ten years. And I before anyone grasp how pitiful that is.

•♦•

If relationships and marriages need performance evaluations the first question on the review should be this,

“Why are you with who you are with?”

Intuitively this seems such an obvious thing; we are investing the hours and days of our limited life to be with another human being, shouldn’t we know why we are doing it? Should we not have a clear understanding of what exactly it is about this person that generates such feelings of loyalty and passion? And for the record, anyone who believes the Hollywood induced notion that ‘because I love them’ is enough hasn’t reached the necessary maturity level to fully understand what relationships are all about.

I’m convinced this is a question that we should ask ourselves often paying extremely close attention to our response. If we can’t articulate why we are with the person in terms that don’t come off sounding like an infomercial, we should begin trying harder. Being with someone because they are a good ‘provider’ or a ‘she has a great job’ is about like wearing a shirt because it brings out your eyes. What happens if he stops being a good provider or she loses her job? Is it any wonder why after a failed relationship we lament, “They aren’t the person I once met?” If our relationship is based on purely bourgeois qualities then no one will be the person we first met.

I could provide a laundry list of reasons why I became interested in the Queen, including her beauty, her passion, kindness, her artistic talents, or her soft nature. But none of them are the reasons why she is still my Queen today.

The Queen is the only woman I have ever met who by her mere presence in my life makes me want to be a better man – for her, my children, myself, and for those around me.

And as far as I’m concerned that is a quality which will last forever.

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17 responses to Why are you with who you are with?

  1. Again, you get my vote for providing mandatory reading for men and women before committing to a relationship. It has to be something more than surface if it’s going to last, it just has to.

  2. “Shallowness can never be the necessary glue to hold two people together for a lifetime” — Priceless!

    But the kicker: “She may be beautiful now, but somebody somewhere is sick and tired of putting up with her shit…” — crude as the quote may be, if that doesn’t smack the shallowness out of you, I don’t know what will, because somewhere somebody is tired of putting up with not only her sh*t but yours!

    But I can’t leave without pointing out this: “And for the record, anyone who believes the Hollywood induced notion that ‘because I love them’ is enough hasn’t reached the necessary maturity level to fully understand what relationships are all about…” — Yes, yes, yes! Men and women have been guilty of this.

    Terrific post.

  3. I have never looked at the analysis behind this question before, but wow, I think you have hit the nail on the head. i am going to have to listen more carefully to the responses I receive to this question.

  4. Great question, Kyle – it is really at the heart of the matter. Like you said, so many of us (myself included), just drank the Kool Aid and did what was expected of us (men and women). We settled. Without really thinking about why are in a relationship with this person – and were the reasons strong enough to go the distance?

    Matchbox 20 had a good song called “Last Beautiful Girl” that is along the same lines of the quote above. Physical beauty cannot possibly sustain any relationship!

    Great post, man!

  5. Enjoyed your post.

    Here’s the thing, I think most people are immensely disappointed about the way their lives have turned out. This is simply not what they envisioned when—as a child—they lay upon their back in the cool grass and stared up at the sky, visions of adulthood dancing through their head.

    This disappointment likely encompasses most of their present situation, from their finances, to their employment, to their weight—and specifically to their intimate relationship.

    Why are you with the person you’re with?

    The status quo apple cart is a hell of thing to upset.

    If you’ve been with a person for any length of time, your whole lives are parasitically intertwined—your house, your cars, and maybe your kids.

    That’s one set of motivations but I think the simple cold, harsh, crux of it is this:

    The f**ked up you know is better than the f**ked up you don’t know!

  6. Estoril

    This is an interesting subject. The bottom line is, we are with the ones we are with because “hopefully” they make us feel good about ourselves, ultimately – through support, affection and the sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. Let’s face it. Do we actively seek out the company of those who make us feel poorly about ourselves or do we gravitate toward those who build us up and empower us? It may sound like a selfish notion on the surface, but isn’t that really what it boils down to? I think in the end, we are all responsible for our own happiness and we make life and relationship decisions based upon what makes us feel good about ourselves and our condition – whether conscious or unconscious.

    By the way this is a cool site. I am a recently divorced father of 10-year-old boy/girl twins. My ex decided after 16 years of marriage that she was going through a mid-life crisis, was unhappy and flew the coop with another man. It has been a very traumatic year for me and my kiddos. We share 50/50 custody and I feel blessed to have that much. My kids are my world.

  7. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Estoril, thanks for joining in the conversation. I hope you find things here that give you insight.

    “This is an interesting subject. The bottom line is, we are with the ones we are with because “hopefully” they make us feel good about ourselves” — that is a slippery slope. That may very well be the reason why relationships start it can never be the reason why they continue. No on has the ability to make us happy, indefinitely. You are correct, that belongs only to us.

    Thanks for stopping by! Come back anytime.

  8. Kyle Bradford – Author

    “The f**ked up you know is better than the f**ked up you don’t know!” —

    people do not like change, instability, or any crisis. They do not believe in the notion, ‘temporary inconvenience to a permanent solution”

    And they wonder why things never get better.

  9. harriet

    geez you just deleted everyone that didn’t agree with you. So would you mind elaborating on what it is about her presence in your life that makes you want to be a better man? Is she way better looking than you? Never argues with you? Never tests your opinion? Cooks for you?
    i am always curious when I hear something vague like that. Same as when you hear “She’s a great Mom.” Sheep are great Mom’s so we know that is just not true>

  10. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Harriet, not sure what you mean by deleted. Personally, I like confrontation and always welcome it. I will say this, she is the only woman I have ever been with who has her act together, emotionally, financially, spiritually, and mentally. She doesn’t need a prescription or a bottle of merlot to make her life more bearable. She isn’t bitter that the world has over promised and under delivered and she has made some monumental decisions that reflected her ethicals system but culturally would have been seen as a huge mistake.

    But most importantly she’s the only woman I’ve ever been with that I totally respect. And yes the is light years better looking than I am, argues quite intelligently, has made me reevaluate my outlook numerous times, and does cook for me — but only when I’m at her house and then usually dinner.

  11. Estoril

    Thanks for having me. Like most guys in my shoes, I read voraciously on relationships, both failed and successful – The 5 Love Languages, The Walk-Out Woman, etc. This is the only site/blog I can really relate to in terms of getting single-dad wisdom from a regular guy. You are doing good work here my man.

    I didn’t articulate my thought very well. We both agree we are responsible for our own happiness, but that wasn’t entirely my point. I will try to formulate a better explanation in the near future.

  12. Sondra

    I totally agree with this article. I was once asked why I love him and he didn’t understand when I said, because I chose to love you. Because your spirit fills me with calm and peacefullness. I know myself like I’ve never know myself before.

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